Side Dish - December Gift Guide.

There's a wreath on the door made of clippings from the backyard. Cookbooks are open to the entertaining chapters, and the first gingerbreads have already been eaten. Holiday shopping looms.

Skipping the chain stores in favour of giving and receiving experiences is my idea of a great Christmas. Last month we spent a weekend at Seaside Cottages in Port Renfrew and ate at The Renfrew Pub and The Coastal Kitchen Cafe. Chef Loewen at the Pub is putting out great food that will surprise you coming from a pub kitchen, it's a great mix of pub mainstays and fresh seasonal dishes. We had Salt Spring Heather Ale on tap with prawn tacos, a fall salad and a halibut entree with roasted squash and beets, topped with pistou (similar to pesto, without pine nuts) and crème fraîche. Pulled pork sliders and a vegetarian pizza feature were great too – thin crust and fresh – great with the live music. Combined with a stay or just for a day trip, a meal here would make a great gift for someone you love.

Back in Victoria, The London Chef offers classes this month on holiday baking, in January a Cooking with Julia Child Class, and Thai Dinner Party, all $95. Chef Dan Hayes is hilarious. He'll have you laughing most of the class. Their pantry features house-made stocks and other items, and a fine collection of specialty food products perfect for hostess gifts and stocking stuffers.

Cook Culture has knife skills and holiday baking classes this month for $85 each. If you're looking for a gift you can hold in your hand, this is your foodie mecca. Abeego reusable food wrap, a kitchen scale, a fish spatula, a reusable silicone baking sheet liner or a Vitamix if you're going all out, are all fantastic options for the food lover in your life.

Pigeonhole Home Store has a beautiful collection of housewares, linens and vintage pieces for a unique gift, they'll help you pick something just right. Enjoy the holidays. Enjoy each other, and raise your glasses filled with locally made craft beer, wine, and spirits.

Try it you'll like it:

Hoyne Gratitude Winter Warmer: A seasonal craft beer that comes hand wrapped and with a beautiful tribute to gratitude on the label. Get it at the brewery or retailers like Liquor PlusCascadia, and Spinnakers Spirit Merchants.

Bittered Sling Bitters: This box set of local bitters makes a great addition to your home cocktail bar. From Vancouver's Chef & Bartender married duo Jonathan Chovancek and Lauren Mote. Find them at Hillside Liquor StoreVintage Spirits or The Village Butcher.

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut, for your holiday feasting, Tuesday night in or New Year's Eve, these are delicious BC bubbles. One of four estate sparkling wines from family owned Blue Mountain Vineyard. Available at private liquor stores. $25